Poll: Organisers of Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fair have ‘every confidence’ the event is safe in face of concerns

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre 2013.

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre 2013. - Credit: Archant

The organisers of a Christmas fair which brings 100,000 people into Bury St Edmunds have defended the event against criticism it is getting too big.

The award-winning Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is recognised as being a huge success story for the town, but concerns have been voiced over safety due to the large number of visitors.

Last year’s event - its 10th anniversary - was hailed as probably the biggest ever with more stalls and also starting a day earlier.

Independent St Edmundsbury councillor David Nettleton said he had “safety concerns,” adding: “I just feel you cannot keep letting into the same area a massive amount of people.”

He said there was overcrowding around the Abbey Gate and Abbeygate Street area and “something will go wrong”.

But a spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which runs the fair, said: “The robustness of the Christmas Fayre event safety plan is tried, tested, reviewed and updated every year.

“It has been developed with OurBurystedmunds [the town’s Business Improvement District], town centre businesses and other partners, and presented each year to the Safety Advisory Group (which includes the East of England Ambulance Service, police, fire and rescue service).

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“Crowd control is planned in and is managed by CCTV and stewards. The crowd flow estimator [which uses information from CCTV images] showed that last year at no time was any area experiencing over 50 per cent capacity.

“Visitors can come and enjoy our wonderful Christmas Fayre with every confidence that we have considered their safety and wellbeing.”

In view of the increasing success of the fair, councillors carried out a full review of the 2011 event, which recommended problems with parking, traffic congestion and crowd control should be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.

The council said at the 2012 fair the footfall at peak times in Abbeygate Street and through the Abbey Gate were addressed with the cooperation of businesses and a two-way flow through the gate.

But Ipswich couple Mick and Sheila Plumley, who visited the fair on a Saturday in 2012, described how busy Abbeygate Street was, with Mr Plumley, 71, saying: “You couldn’t really walk up there because it was too busy. You could only go with the flow.”

While they were not worried for their own safety, they expressed concern over parents becoming separated from young children.

Green councillor Mark Ereira, who is also a town centre resident, said, as far as the fair was concerned, “to some extent we are a victim of our own success”.

“I do share the emerging concerns of some people who might say this is a bit too big for a medium-sized market town, but at the same time I’m really happy it’s here and people are enjoying it and it brings that life and sparkle to the town.”

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds, said the fair was a “big positive” for the town and raised its profile, adding he felt the council was taking the necessary steps to keep the event safe.

The council added last year there was a community night on Thursday for the first time, which left the rest of the weekend for visitors.

The Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre - which is hailed as one of the best Christmas markets in the UK - is on from Thursday, November 27, to Sunday, November 30.

For more information visit www.burystedmundschristmasfayre.co.uk